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Mr. TOWNS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my concerns with a health provision in the Payroll Tax Compromise. Even though we have successfully protected Medicare beneficiaries from significantly increased premiums on Medicare patients with incomes below $40,000, and prevented attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act's mission of expanding coverage to millions of Americans, the Payroll Tax compromise still contains provisions that will hurt middle-class and economically disadvantaged Americans. Specifically, I am concerned about the inclusion of cuts to Medicare laboratory services. Under this legislation, clinical lab payment rates will be cut by an additional 2 percent in 2013, on top of the cuts that were included in the health reform law. These new cuts also rebase the lab fee schedule, resulting in lower rates for clinical lab services for years to come.
In some independent clinical laboratories, especially those serving rural communities or nursing home populations, 80 percent or more of their patient-base consists of Medicare beneficiaries. The cuts being faced threaten their practice's existence and no additional cuts--big or small--can be absorbed without adversely impacting patient care. Medicare payment amounts for clinical laboratory services have already been reduced, in real terms, by about 40 percent over the past 20 years. While clinical laboratory testing is less than 2 percent of all Medicare spending, it has been subject to significant freezes in payments and cuts over the last decade.
Clinical laboratories are an important part of the health care system. Their tests inform up to 70 percent of a doctor's medical decision-making. As the first point of intervention, laboratory tests serve as the foundation for the diagnosis and clinical management of conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and infectious diseases. These clinical laboratories do more than just draw a person's blood. They are a major part of the medical process.
Independent clinical laboratories also are essential for those who must depend on the laboratory's mobility for testing. Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes rely upon the services provided by independent clinical laboratories that can deploy medical professionals to their place of residence. If these laboratories continue to have their Medicare payments cut, not only will jobs be lost, but patients will suffer.
I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to repeal these cuts.
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